It’s never easy for new parents when their bundle of joy just isn’t so joyous. A point to remember: crying is a completely normal state for any newborn. Sometimes the cause behind it is obvious - other times, finding the reason may require some serious sleuthing on a parent’s part.
It’s important for parents to remain calm and in control. Even if a baby’s screams are off the chart, as long as a baby is safe and healthy then there’s no real reason to panic. Parents should do what they can in order to help comfort and soothe these shrieking monsters - some tried and true methods that often help appease a miniature malcontent include: warm bath, gentle massage, soother, car ride, fresh air, swaddling even just the sound of a parent’s voice or being snuggled close.
In most cases, an inconsolable baby is trying to communicate to their parents. They are voicing their needs, distress, pain or discomfort and crying is their only option. Parents may find themselves desperately running through the typical checklists: are they hungry, sleepy, colicky, gassy or teething? While these may be the obvious sources of a baby’s crying, they are not the only reasons. There are a whole other realm of possible causes for a baby’s excessive crying - and unfortunately - many of them may not be top of mind. Until now - continue reading for 15 shocking reasons a baby may be inconsolable.
15 A Hairy Situation
For any new parent who hasn’t heard of hair tourniquet syndrome, not to worry - they aren’t alone. This occurs when a strand of hair becomes tightly wound around a baby’s finger or toe, potentially cutting off blood circulation.
Scott and Jessica Walker experienced this first-hand when their 19-week-old daughter Molly was crying and they couldn’t figure out why or how to comfort her. The Kansas couple finally undressed Molly due to fear that she was over heating and made the surprising discovery of her misery - a hair tourniquet wrapped around her second toe.
Scott Walker shared this experience on Facebook, hoping to enlighten new parents. As a result, the post was shared more than 16,000 times. Fortunately, most experts agree that hair tourniquets rarely pose a serious risk to babies and young children - but at the same time, many parents are unaware of the fact that they can occur.
While difficult to prevent altogether, they are relatively simple to remove. Parents are advised to use something thin yet not sharp like a bobby pin to slide between the hair and skin until the tourniquet breaks.
14 Goldilocks Syndrome
In terms of temperature, an infant is kind of like Goldilocks - they can’t be too hot or too cold . . . they need to be just right. If a baby is uncomfortable in any way, they will cry in order to voice their complaint. And unfortunately, because of how sensitive babies are, it doesn’t take all that much for a baby to feel uncomfortable.
It is recommended that the temperature in the room where baby sleeps be kept between 68 and 72 degrees fahrenheit. And according to experts, the best way to gauge how warm or cool a baby is is to place a hand on their bare stomach. Don’t be fooled by a baby’s hands or feet as it’s completely normal for them to feel cold.
Another rule of thumb is to dress babies in layers - typically one more layer than is comfortable for an adult. But be wary of overdoing it as it doesn’t take much for a baby to become overheated.
13 Jazzing Things Up
Interaction between adult and baby does not have to be complicated - a smile, a gentle touch, talking or singing to them, holding them close - all of these activities are ways that babies receive stimulation and begin to learn about the world around them. It is possible for babies to feel boredom - especially when no one pays attention to them for long stretches of time. And when this occurs, a baby will voice their complaint - usually in the form of some hearty crying.
The cry of a bored or under-stimulated infant tends to differ slightly from other cries. It’s usually quieter and sometimes even staccato in nature - it comes out in short bursts rather than one long scream. Also, if a parent attempts to distract a bored baby, the cries may easily transform into laughter.
Most parenting experts suggest that in cases of a bored baby crying, that parents delay their reaction or response by a few seconds. This will give the infant a chance to distract themselves and is an early step toward teaching a baby to self-soothe.
12 Keeping Things Down
It is believed that reflux affects up to 80% of newborns - although most only suffer from mild symptoms that they will outgrow on their own. Reflux occurs when the valve between the stomach and esophagus is not in proper working order. Once food or liquid enters the stomach, the valve typically closes. But in cases where it is under developed, the valve may remain open. Then when the stomach contracts during the digestion process, the food (now mixed with stomach acid) is forced back up the esophagus. This can cause intense pain for an infant.
In the case of silent reflux, vomiting does not occur which makes it difficult to diagnose. A parent may not even be aware that their baby is suffering - save for the fact that they are crying constantly.
While many babies will naturally outgrow their reflux, in some instances medical intervention - even hospitalization may be required. For any parent whose baby is seemingly inconsolable and they have no clue why - it definitely doesn’t hurt to have them checked out for reflux.
11 The Eyes Have It
There’s a reason that many newborn babies wear light-weight mittens on their hands - even when indoors. Their fingernails can sometimes double as lethal weapons. They grow fast and can be extremely difficult for a parent to keep trimmed and even. As a result, infants may inadvertently scratch themselves when flailing their arms or rubbing their eyes.
If a parent notices their baby is suffering from an eye injury, their best bet is to have it checked out by a doctor to ensure it is nothing serious. The following symptoms may signify the injury is more than just minor:
- Swelling or bruising on the eyelid.
- Light bothers the baby.
- An eyelid is torn.
- The eye appears red and/or is watering or draining mucus.
- One eye does not appear to move as well as the other.
- One pupil is not round or is not the same size as the pupil of the other eye.
Remedies may be as simple as applying a cool compress to the eye or using prescribed antibiotics to treat the injury. In some extreme cases, a baby may be required to undergo eye surgery.
10 Tight And Constrictive
The chubby legs and rolls of ankle fat are typically adorable when it comes to babies. However, as cute as it may be, its mortal enemy is the tight elastic or rubber trim sometimes found on baby clothing. Parents need to be aware of possible harm due to tight clothing and check any pants or jumpers that baby wears - as well as socks. Even after only a few hours of wear, these constrictive bands can cut into a baby’s layer of chub, leaving marks that appear to be cuts or burns.
While these marks usually fade of their own volition, in some cases they can result in permanent pigmentation issues - especially if the tight-banded clothing is continually worn. Keep in mind the fact that just because a baby does not fuss while the clothing is worn - that does not mean anything. In most cases, a baby won’t fuss until the clothing is removed and any abrasion caused is exposed to the air.
If parents discover that certain clothing has marked a baby’s skin or are worried that the clothing may be too tight, try to stretch them by hand. Otherwise, play it safe and toss the items aside.
9 Only The Lonely
Babies may sometimes seem oblivious to the world around them but it’s just not so. They are capable of feeling content, stress, boredom and even loneliness. For parents wondering if their baby’s cries may be due to loneliness, it is helpful to keep them where they can see you and hear you. Touch them gently so they know they aren’t alone. Talk to them, even if they are across the room. The sound of a parent’s voice talking or singing to them, even talking to someone else on the phone will remind them that they are not by themselves. These seemingly insignificant actions can sometimes help keep any tears of loneliness at bay.
Ensure when baby is on their own for a bit that they have some interesting toys within arms reach or at the very least in their sight line. Have interesting shapes and patterns nearby that may be a distraction for them.
According to child psychologists, a baby consistently left alone or ignored may begin to internalize these negative feelings. This can have a long-reaching effect on a baby’s brain and emotional development.
8 Creepy Crawlies
Because babies are unable to move, they sometimes fall victim to a variety of insect bites and stings. If a baby is inconsolable and no immediate cause for their distress can be determined, it makes sense for a parent to strip them down and examine them from head to toe for any possible bites. In most cases, a bug bite reaction will be mild and nothing more serious than a rash or welt. But remember - even these are enough to cause significant discomfort to a newborn.
For a baby suffering a more severe reaction, this may be evidence of an allergy. In this case, it is definitely suggested that parents seek the advice of a medical professional as further allergy testing may be warranted.
Parents are urged to seek medical attention immediately or call an ambulance if an insect bite results in any of the following symptoms:
- Breathing problems
- Severe stomach pain and/or vomiting
- Hives or rash in another area of the body from where the bite occurred
- Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- Swelling in lips and throat
7 Stressed Out
Financial pressures and relationship problems are the two main reasons behind an adult feeling stressed out. While both culprits are moot points where an infant is concerned, surprisingly babies are still able to feel stressed.
Obviously it’s a parent’s duty to do what is necessary for a baby to feel safe, secure and loved. And if for some reason, these needs aren’t met, it is possible - even probable that a baby may become stressed and/or anxious. Excessive crying and an inability to be comforted or soothed are both signs that a baby may be feeling stressed.
When a baby feels fear, this can often trigger their stress response. Other common reasons that a baby may be afraid and/or stressed include:
- They have been separated from their parents and/or caregivers.
- They are experiencing physical discomfort or pain.
- They are in an abusive or negligent situation.
- They are living in a chaotic and/or inconsistent environment.
6 Don't Overdo It
An over-stimulated baby is not generally cause for serious concern but it makes sense to know the signs and how best to prevent or resolve it. Otherwise, parents may find themselves with a non-stop cry-baby on their hands. Plus, if over-stimulation consistently occurs, it can disrupt a baby’s sleep pattern and negatively affect their emotional engagement as well.
Over-stimulation occurs when a baby is overwhelmed by experiences. It can happen due to an excess of activity, noise and sensations around them. Baby may have trouble processing everything and as a result end up having a melt-down.
Keep in mind that every baby is different. While an overload of attention from family and friends may result in over-stimulation in one baby, another one may actually enjoy all the attention. Once a parent gets to know their child, they will come to learn what works best to keep their baby happy and distracted but not over-stimulated.
5 Insidious Reactions
When new parents are scrutinizing their infants for any potential allergies or sensitivities, most often they are watching for a break-out of hives or even signs of anaphylactic shock. But what many don’t realize is that allergies can actually sneak up on new parents. One of the earliest symptoms of a baby suffering from an allergy is inconsolable crying.
Allergies to food, pets, dust, detergent and even the environment can result in a baby being extremely uncomfortable as well as fussy. These allergies (or even mild sensitivities) can leave a baby with an upset stomach or just a feeling of being unwell. They can cause gassiness and breathing trouble which can also lead to crankiness and more crying than usual. And if undiagnosed, allergic reactions can result in a disruption of natural sleep patterns which will only lead to further fussiness.
For new parents concerned their baby may be suffering from allergies, do not hesitate to bring this up to a healthcare professional. More definitive allergy testing may be required.
4 Say Aaaaaaah
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) sounds pretty ominous but typically, any infected individual recovers within a week or two. The contagious illness is extremely common in babies and children under five because they do not yet possess immunity to the viruses that result in HFMD. That said, it is still possible for older kids and even adults to contract it.
Symptoms include: fever, sore throat, appetite loss, a rash appearing on hands and feet, and painful sores inside the mouth.
Due to the tricky nature of HFMD, symptoms may appear in various stages or even not at all. While certain individuals may suffer from some of the symptoms, they may not exhibit them all. If a baby is crying for seemingly no reason, and there is no rash visible on their skin, be sure to check inside their mouth. The sores or blisters that sometimes appear in the mouth tend to begin as flat red spots.
3 What's To Come
Studies have shown that excessive crying in an infant can sometimes be a precursor for mental challenges they will face as adults. That’s not to say that all inconsolable babies will grow up to become mentally ill adults - but this behavior does up the risk factor.
Pediatricians agree that when it comes to the treatment of mental health issues - the earlier the better. If a baby is proving inconsolable and a parent’s instinct is telling them that more is going on than simple colic or general fussiness, it’s important to act on this gut feeling.
Hindsight is often 20/20 and research has proven that many adults facing mental health issues did in fact exhibit specific behaviors as babies - including excessive crying and/or sleep issues.
If an infant is prone to unexplained crying jags, then it makes sense for a parent to talk further with a healthcare professional about the possibility of it being symptomatic of mental health challenges in the future.
2 Frustration On Deck
True temper tantrums aren’t in the forecast until a baby is closer to 18 months of age - but that doesn’t mean that frustration and feelings of rage can’t occur. Even babies who are generally even-tempered and good-natured can cry due to feelings of frustration as they slowly become more aware of themselves and their surroundings.
And if babies become overly hungry or tired, this can easily become a melt down that is difficult to soothe. For this reason alone, it is important for parents to learn to read their baby’s cues so they know when they are starting to become impatient. This way their needs can be anticipated and met before frustration sets in and baby becomes an inconsolable monster.
Other common reasons a baby may experience feelings of frustration include:
- When they want or need something but are unable to communicate this.
- When they aren't capable of achieving what they hoped to.
- When they can't make their bodies do what they want.
1 Just Because: Fact Or Fiction?
According to experts, it’s an urban myth that babies cry for no reason. In fact, while it may seem like there’s no apparent reason for the misery, a baby is most likely just unable to verbalize why they are crying. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure their baby is healthy, safe and happy. When all else fails, there are many checklists available online for new parents to scroll through to ensure they’ve covered their bases while attempting to console the unconsolable.
Besides the obvious such as: dirty diaper, hunger, colic, gas, sleepiness - a few others to keep in mind include: the need to burp, teething pain, or a general feeling of being unwell.
If a parent is still in the dark on why their child is so upset, then attempt to comfort them with a pacifier, by swaddling them, playing some soft and distracting music, white noise, through infant massage or even by heading outside for a change of scenery. If this proves unsuccessful or only provides temporary relief, then consider having baby checked over by a healthcare professional.
Sources: Parents.com, MomJunction.com, BabyCenter.com, Today.com, CentersForDiseaseControl.gov, PsychologyToday.com, BabySleepSite.com, HuffingtonPost.com